Saturday, November 28, 2015

August is the month public officials traditionally use your tax dollars to travel to gather information, ideas and frequent flier miles they claim will help them serve you better.

Do you know where your thousands - and on a national scale, hundreds of millions - of federally-mandated, non-refundable checkoff dollars go? It's a question Bobby King, policy director of Minnesota's Land Stewardship Project, asked when he viewed advertisements that attacked "anti-livestock activist groups" in the state on Minneapolis' powerhouse WCCO television station earlier this year.

While American taxpayers await an accounting on the billions sent to the Gulf Coast to clean up Katrina's devastation, USDA already knows the tab for four emergency programs hastily designed "to further reduce stress on the grain transportation system" caused by the storm.

Unlike Mark Twain's quip upon reading his obituary, my early July "RIP Doha" column was neither premature nor exaggerated.

July has been a tough month for farmers and ranchers in The Washington Post. On July 2 and again July 18, The Post published lengthy investigative pieces on the enormous cost, wanton waste, and built-in silliness of today's federal farm programs.

The biggest non-news news of the yet-young summer arrived July 1 when the Doha Development Round of World Trade Organization talks melted into a muddy puddle of recriminations as the trade yakkers in Geneva failed to even begin their "last ditch" effort to save the troubled talks.

Outside of accuracy, honesty and tight prose, the rules established (way back in May 1993) for these 700-word weekly adventures were few.

A month ago, Fred Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, preached to the preachers of the Northern Plains Conference of the United Church of Christ in Bismarck.

Three years ago come July 1, 70 percent or so of American dairy farmers began taxing themselves to fund a program the industry dubbed Cooperatives Working Together, or CWT.

When the Senate confirmed Susan C. Schwab as the Bush Administration's Trade Representative June 8 - the second trade rep in just 13 months - it did so by voice vote, an uncommon occurrence for the usually-on-the-record body.